Air Transport World

Information for sale

IATA is reinventing itself as a provider of data, IT and outsourcing expertise

GENEVA-Everybody wants to be part of the information age, including IATA. Director-General Pierre Jeanniot avers: "We are information merchants."

So, the organization, once best known for providing a fare-fixing forum for airlines, is spending a big share of time on information, developing new products and services that can be sold to members and nonmembers, putting formerly free activities on a commercial footing, or making still-free services more efficient.

Of IATA's $100 million annual budget, 20% comes from dues. Of the remainder, more than 66% comes from nonmembers. Publications make the biggest contribution. Tom Murphy, senior director-customer and distribution services, explains. "We used to see [dangerous goods, ticketing, airport handling and other information] as something we just issued." No more.

IATA also wants to make activities such as tariff and travel-agency-related matters more efficient, maybe even to the point where they cover the costs of providing the services. Certain projects--ATC, infrastructure, safety, user charges and taxes, new air routes--still have sufficient industrywide interest to retain full dues funding. The rest is or will be partly or fully pay-as-you-go. Indeed, commercializing numerous trade-association activities is proving far easier than gaining acceptance for industry views on issues such as ATC consolidation and tax reduction.

But IATA must tread carefully as it boosts sales and cuts dues. The less member support, the more its nonprofit status is threatened. …

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